About The Playhouse

Chester Playhouse Theatre, Nova Scotia

Chester Playhouse, 2015

For a review of or 2015 operations please download the Annual General Meeting report  from the Board of Directors.

2015  AGM Pkg


Chester Playhouse Theatre, Chester, Nova Scotia

The Chester Playhouse is owned and operated by the Chester Theatre Council Society (CTC).
A registered Society since 1984, the CTC is a charitable organization with a volunteer Board of Directors chosen from the members. The mission of the Society is: To foster, promote, encourage and develop the performing arts and to maintain a community arts facility in the municipality of the district of Chester.

In 2004, the CTC envisioned the future and stated: The Chester Playhouse will endeavor to produce, present and reward the artistic diversity and vitality of the cultural community of Canada and our own community of Chester, in order to be recognized as a primary South Shore destination for entertainment and development of the arts in Nova Scotia.

The village of Chester is a seaside resort with a small year round population that more than doubles in July and August. The Chester Playhouse, located on the main street, was originally a movie theatre built in 1939 and converted for live entertainment in 1963 when the Chester Jesters presented the first summer productions on stage. In 1975, Leo and Dora Velleman operated Canadian Puppet Festivals from the theatre until merging with Mermaid Theatre in 1983. In 1987 the building was purchased by Sir Christopher Ondaatje, who donated it to the Theatre Council, renamed it the Chester Playhouse, and the first Chester Summer Theatre Festival presented a series of touring shows over an eight week period.

In 1993 the first phase of renovations took place and the capacity rose to the present 176. In 2000, a much more substantial renovation was under taken with a two-story addition made to the back of the building which now incorporates dressing rooms and a Green Room, as well as a workshop in which to create props and sets. A beautiful, new upper lobby was added along with expanded offices. Renovations continued in 2005 bringing new washrooms and an improved entranceway. Despite all of these major changes, the Chester Playhouse remains one of the most charming and intimate small theatres in Atlantic Canada.

Matching the physical growth of the Playhouse is a steady growth in performances. In 1987 the 1st summer Festival presented a brief summer festival of touring plays, and the theatre has now evolved to offer a year round schedule of approximately one hundred performances: high profile popular concerts, touring theatre and dance, classical music, readings and lectures, films, community rentals, comedy, world premiere theatre productions, musicals and so on.

The Chester Summer Theatre Festival continues to be the focal point of our year and in 2012 we presented a summer festival that included a subscription series of professional theatre productions, a Sunday night music series, a fundraising gala event and special opening night celebrations. We presented 35 performances over the six week season. Our own Chester Playhouse Productions have been recognized for the high quality professionalism of challenging work, and we have developed a new production from scratch. “Odd Ducks” is a new play by Bryden Macdonald that was workshopped in the fall of 2011 prior to production in Sept. 2012. We have received funding for this project from NSCCH and the Canada Council.

With the help of the Arts Presentation Canada Grant ( Canadian Heritage) we were able to bring in Performers from outside of our region such as Sarah Hayward for her one woman show Stripes The Mystery Circus, Cantabile (UK), Jan Liseicki (Calgary), International Guitar night(California) and many others. We have produced such diverse productions igh chool High as the South Shore Youth Music Festival, The South Shore Piano Jazz Festival, and the South Shore Songwriters Circle, as well as presenting a wide range of professional musicians and productions from various Nova Scotian Theatre Companies.

We have established the Playhouse as a venue for community outreach through presentations by local school drama groups, Nova Dance Studios, The Chester Drama Society, and a winter play reading series. The Playhouse also sponsors many other community groups as a venue for benefits and fundraising. We have established a very successful after school acting program for youth aged 4-18 and have had a summer theatre school for the past 18 years. We partner with the local schools to bring students to specific performances and also offer discounted tickets to students for all of our productions through the eyeGO to the Arts program.

Artistic Director Mary Lou Martin chooses the summer theatre plays and in 2012 we developed a Broadway revue style show called Broadway without Borders. We have also brought in plays from Theatre du Gros Mecano (QC), Lunasea Theatre Company (NS) and Duchess Productions (ON), Mulgrave Theatre (NS) 2btheatre (NS) and many others. In 2009 we partnered with the Nova Scotia Theatre company Two Planks and A Passion to bring to the stage the premier of “Rockbound”, a lively musical based on the award winning Book by Frank Parker Day.

The support for the playhouse continues to be demonstrated through significant financial donations from Members and Patrons. We are extremely thankful to all the supporters, our sponsors, advertisers and volunteers who all play a large role in the operations of the theatre.

On the administrative level, the Chester Playhouse is in good fiscal health. Since taking over as General Manager in 2004, overall revenues have increased almost 90%. We have built solid fundraising models, and to date we have had a small surplus every year through diversified revenue sources. As a result, the CTC has no mortgage, and has established modest reserves to support building maintenance and cash flow needs. The Board of Directors has established an endowment fund to secure the future financial stability of The Playhouse and the Board has worked diligently to complete the many governance requirements resulting from our participation in the Sustainability Program of the NS Foundation for Heritage and the Arts. The Theater has been successful in attaining continuous Financial Operating Status from the Province of Nova Scotia, as well as a series of project grants from the Province of Nova Scotia, The Canada Council and Canadian Heritage.

The future for theatre and the arts is very challenging, yet we look forward to the creative process that develops on all levels of our operation to ensure our long term viability.

Erick Bickerdike,
Executive Director
The Chester Playhouse.